Yankees have two more ‘breakthrough’ COVID-19 cases

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Yankees are dealing with a COVID outbreak on their coaching and support staff, with three confirmed cases.

Third base coach Phil Nevin and first base coach Reggie Willits and an unspecified support staff member tested positive, the team announced Tuesday.

All three cases are considered “breakthrough positives,” since they had been fully vaccinated.

Manager Aaron Boone said there are other staff members and coaches “still pending,’’ and some staff members had been sent home. Nevin was under quarantine in Tampa.

Mario Garza, the organization’s coordinator of baseball development, filled in at first and bench coach Carlos Mendoza coached third.

Though the Yankees didn’t name pitching coach Matt Blake among the suspected cases, bullpen coach Mike Harkey filled in as pitching coach in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

No players were impacted by the potential outbreak, according to Boone.

After the victory, Boone said, “as of right now, I’m absolutely planning on playing [Wednesday].”

Some other members of the staff were sent home out of “an abundance of caution,” Boone said if there was “any bit of a gray area” about whether they had any contact.

Boone said the team would be operating with “a little bit of a skeleton staff [Tuesday], but nothing we can’t handle.”

Asked about his own status Boone said, “I did not fall into that [category].”

Boone said the team began to get news about potential positive tests on Sunday night.

“A lot unfolded [Monday],’’ Boone said of the team’s off day.

And the development will force them to look at their protocols.

“We’ll have to evaluate and make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to prevent things from happening,’’ Boone said.

Since the Yankees had reached the 85 percent vaccination threshold set by Major League Baseball, they had been able to relax some protocols, something Boone added they would revisit given the situation.

Though the vaccines being offered in the U.S. are effective in preventing infection and severe cases of the disease caused by COVID-19, there have been “a small percentage” of fully vaccinated people who have tested positive for the virus in so-called “breakthrough” cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nevin and the rest of the Yankees received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Boone, who hadn’t worn a mask in the dugout since they’d met the threshold, wore one Tuesday night.

Gerrit Cole who, along with the injured Zack Britton, is serving as the union representative, said the players met Tuesday and decided to go ahead with the game after conversations with the league and union.

“We spoke together as a group of players to see what we were all feeling and how we were dealing with this and how to protect ourselves,’’ Cole said.

“As a whole, we’re looking to press on. There were different levels of comfortability, I think, across the club. [We’re] trying to accommodate that and trying to make sure everybody was in a good spot to perform and felt confident as a group we could do that.”

After the win, Aaron Judge said the team “felt as a team it was best for us to play and take care of business on the field. It was stressful, especially leading up to it.”

Judge also mentioned hoping to get support from the league to protect the players.

Cole added they’d been in touch with the league and done “about all we could do” in regards to safety, adding the situation remained “fluid” as players and staff continue to get tested multiple times a day for the near future.

Boone said though the team is “way more equipped to deal with” a positive test, it “still stops you in your tracks.”

The Yankees have already dealt with several cases of COVID — including Aroldis Chapman, DJ LeMahieu and Luis Cessa prior to last season, and Britton and Gio Urshela during the offseason.

Urshela also missed a game last month after much of the team was vaccinated at the Stadium, when he had an adverse reaction.

Cole acknowledged the Yankees — and the rest of the sport and beyond — are going to continue to have to deal with this reality.

“Respectfully, I don’t think this is gonna be over for a few years,’’ Cole said of the possibility of more cases spreading. “I think we’re gonna be dealing with this kind of thing for a while. Every time these things come up, we have to adapt and learn as a species. We’re gonna take it one step at a time and do the best we can with it.”

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